Tortoise Beacons of Ancestorship Review

Released 2009.  

BBC Review

A snappy combination of intellect and intuition.

Sid Smith 2009

Since the mid-90s Chicago band Tortoise have been producing albums which resolutely avoid easy classification. You might pin a label on a track or two but any attempt to apply one across an entire album is never going to work.

Their collective approach to music-making (as befits a band of multi-instrumentalists) is their secret weapon. Freed from specific roles the band have been able to roam pretty much wherever their fancy takes them for over 20 years.

Six albums in and this fluidity of approach continues. Their snappy combination of intellect and intuition sweeps up lo-fi grooves, fat, barbed-wire coated bass lines and fuzz-laden beats, into an engagingly accessible record.

Though the cut and paste collages of their early career path remains, increasingly it's been spliced with a more demonstrative, visceral dimension.

Prepare Your Coffin goes straight for the jazz-rock jugular evoking a version of Return To Forever crossed with The Stooges. Using weedy analogue synths they've avoided any pitch-bend excesses whilst aping the high-octane nature of the genre.

Tortoise have always opted to sprinkle their music with a sassy exotica. Chilled cymbalom rattles various rhythmic cages that vibrate, buzz and jitter during the stop-start thrum of Gigantes, and Minors has an intriguing lop-sided John Barry-style melody that would make a perfect fit for a spy movie soundtrack.

Ambient? Post-rock? Indie? Experimental? All of the above? You can’t really pigeon-hole Tortoise but when the music is this good why would you want to bother?

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